The tears streamed down my face. “She was only 11 years old. Telling the other little girls around her how fat she thought she was and how she already wanted to get rid of the fat on her body”. These were the words of an emotional 16 year old girl, who cried as she told the audience how at the back of a ballet recital, the chatter she heard. Of an 11 year old. Instead of laughing, singing and practising her dance moves and enjoying her childhood, she was already speaking about how much she hates her body, how much she wanted to change it. At a time in her life where she should be learning about courage, about self love, about being brave, discovering her talents and spending days doing cartwheels and back-bends, loving the fact that she will soon be so strong that she will be able to stand on her toes….. she is already cloaked in self doubt, low self esteem and body hatred, already submerged in the devastating battle of winner-takes-all for the skinniest, prettiest and cleverest. My heart just broke into pieces, as did the heart of the 16 year old girl who bravely intervened and told her that she wasn’t fat, that she was beautiful from the inside out, that she was talented and amazing. They are the words the 11 year old needs to be saying.
But this was just one of many stories that we heard as we sat hugging our box of sweet popcorn, slurping on our coke (right to the very bottom!) and watching the documentary of “Embrace” by Taryn Brumfitt. This is an amazing documentary, one that every girl, woman, mother, wife and daughter – and even husbands should see. We laughed, we cried and we left inspired to change the conversation around what beauty truly means and how to embrace the incredible person you are, as you are. It was truly heartbreaking to see that 91% of women hate their bodies. And the heartache that so many endured as they spent their life on a diet rollercoaster, punishing their bodies so that they could “fit in” with the media driven definition of beautiful. So that they could “fit in” with society’s expectations of who and what they should be. But the documentary also gave us hope. Gave us faith that we can change the story, that we can proudly be who we want to be and know that our self worth and beauty is not dictated by anyone else. It melted away some of our own sheets of fear as we saw our own reflection in many of the stories. And most importantly it showed that every woman and everybody is beautiful. Taryn’s movement is powerful and as she puts it so eloquently “I want to inspire women to give less shits about their wrinkles and cellulite so that they can experience all the joy life has to offer”
Inspire she did. Motivate she did. And we all walked out with a little Beyoncé in our stride!
(Go SISTA!!! OK, so I’m sure that my moves were not as smooth as that, but my imagination and body was telling me otherwise!)
But there was one common question that came up among the women…..
HOW DO I LOVE MYSELF MORE?
Taryn touched on a number of points of how to do this, some of which are below, however I wanted to dive in a little more and let you know of what has worked for me. I know it’s long, but I think this is really important. Unfortunately I do see a lot of contradictory messaging and fluffy bullshit on social media, so what I’m going to give you now? Is REAL TALK. (but just a warning – I’m an Olympic ranter, so apologies in advance!)
So, what can you do?
Ditch the scales!
Oh how freeing it is to no longer be ruled by a number! Now it isn’t easy, and there is temptation to just go buy another set BUT DON’T!! Smash the the scales that you have, grab a hammer, grab your favourite stiletoe’s (ok – don’t grab your stiletoe’s – we don’t wanna ruin them!) and get smashing! (it feels amazing to do it!) Your worth is not defined by a number on a scale and neither is your health. I can’t even remember the last time I weighed myself. All I know is that I’m around 65kg give or take a couple of kilo’s depending on the time of month or even what’s happening in life. I couldn’t care less about what the scale says, especially as that number doesn’t tell you anything. Being healthy is not just about the number on the scale, but it is about how you feel about your body, how you take care of your body, how your mind and spirit also is. So time to give the scales the middle finger and chuck them out that window!
Clean up your social media and stop following accounts that make you feel like self love only comes once you’ve lost the weight
I cannot emphasise this enough. Stop following the accounts that make you feel like shit. I stopped following all of the fitness accounts, the women’s health magazine, crazy clean eating accounts. Many of you might disagree. Many of you might say that “their transformations are so inspirational”. But this is where I disagree. Why? Because these accounts place an inordinate value still on the physical body. I will certainly congratulate them because they have worked dam hard, but while they post their before and after photos they still give out the messaging to women of whom are still trying to find their place in this world and who they are, that their happiness and “self love” is only achievable through obsessive exercise and clean eating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for exercise and eating well (more below) and it is always great to see when someone has recovered from an eating disorder. But more often than not, you see a before photo of a girl who hated her body because she had a little belly fat with an after photo of zero fat, 6 pack, biceps of steel and a green juice in her hand with the caption “it’s all about loving who you are and your body”. (It drives me up the f*cking wall!) Again, this gives the message that the path to self love is through losing the weight, that “thin and strong” is where life happens. But loving yourself more and having a positive body image isn’t believing that your body looks good, it’s knowing that your body IS GOOD regardless of how it looks. That your not just beautiful, but you are MORE THAN beautiful. We need to be teaching women and girls to admire other women for their courage, their sense of adventure, their bravery for going out and truly finding out who they are without succumbing to the pressure to fit into a certain “beauty” box defined by society. Not for their aesthetics. (clearly I could rant on about this all day, but I’ll move on!!)
Follow accounts that inspire you to love life and make you feel good
This is just as important as unfollowing accounts. Add accounts that make you feel dam good. So I follow accounts such as the body image movement (naturally!! :-) ), Nitika Chopra and Beauty Redefined, which is an amazing account to follow for body positivity. But it’s not just about following body positive accounts. I also follow photography accounts such as Jasmine Star (lifestyle and wedding photographer), helloemilie (amazing travel photography – serious drool worthy!), chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Donna Hay, inspirational women such as Gabrielle Bernstein, Marie Forleo. Other accounts such as the pretty blog (all things pretty from cooking, to photography, to travel, to interior design), ses and jen (swoon worthy interior design and lot’s about Jen’s little girl Gorgia! Heart melt!) and definitely Magnolia (Chip and Joanna Gains! Interior designs and amazing house transformations! Makes me want to move to Texas!). And when it comes to magazines I follow accounts such as hellomagnify, a magazine about fashion, faith and feminism where they celebrate the stories and achievements of incredible women who are making a mark on this world – there is nothing on the latest diet craze, or how to get the bikini body or anything to do with weightloss and how our body looks – just amazing stories of incredibly inspiring women. And when it does come to food and diet information I follow registered dietitians – science based health information – such as nic’s nutrition, the rooted project and Laura Thomas (who is an absolute hoot! Check out her podcast “don’t salt my game” too!). But I reinterate – this is super super important to follow accounts that inspire you to enjoy and love your life and don’t flood your day with the diet/body culture.
Talking about social media… Get off it!!!
We spend soooo much time on social media these days, no wonder we’re all aimlessly wondering around not knowing who the hell we are. And this is a major part of the problem. When you are constantly being bombarded by social media telling you who/what you should be, we end up spending so much time trying to “fit in” and trying to “belong” and we end up suppressing who we are. Just as important as being inspired by the right people on social media, it’s just as important to get off it. Spend some quality time with yourself. Absorb and experience the amazing world we live and go find that girl. Listen to what it is that you need to make her as strong as bold as you want her to be. Ask yourself “Who am I when no one is looking?” Many questions may arise, some that you may not like, but it’s part of the process. But find that thing that puts the fire in your soul and makes you a massive weapon of confidence. Maybe it’s art, maybe it’s physics, maybe it’s marketing or being a baker or a travel photographer. Whatever it is – you won’t find her on social media, so spend some quality alone time with yourself and bring her out.
Create as many optimal conditions as you can for feeling good.
Under what conditions do you love yourself a little bit more? Is it when you’re doing art? Or writing? Or sitting on the grass in your backyard? Is it when you’re travelling, or when you’re running, or when you’re doing volunteering? Is it when you’ve got candles lit, and a clean desk, and healthy food on the table? Is it when you’re dressed impeccably, or in yoga pants, or with your hair blonde or red or blue or green? Surround yourself with the things that make you feel good, and strong, and peaceful, and free. It will make you feel amazing, make you feel like you’re FULL OF BEAUTY – and that will certainly get heads turning.
Get your body moving! And exercise to feel good, not as a form of punishment for what you’ve eaten.
I love exercise – it’s like this big goblet of feel good endorphin’s that you can drink up. But the way that I exercise now is MASSIVELY different from before. I use to run my ass off on the treadmill or outside “saying” to myself that it’s because it makes me feel good, but deep down it was driven through punishment of what I ate and that I had to exercise to get rid of the fat. Now I exercise because I simply want to exercise and feel good. And the difference is that I listen to my body and what it wants. Sometimes I wake up and I feel like doing yoga, sometime I might want to go to the gym and do some weights instead, if the weather is fab I’ll grab my bike and go for a bike ride, or sometimes I might simply just want to go for a really nice long walk and soak up the gorgeous environment and sunshine I’m in. Other days I just want to sleep in and not exercise and spend the whole morning with my arms around Rob instead. And I’m OK with that. Hell, sometimes my exercise for the day is simply dancing my heart out in the kitchen! I now have a completely different mindset to exercise. I exercise to feel good – that’s it. If I lose some weight – so be it, but that is not my goal. If I can improve the number of push ups I do – awesome, but to be honest I couldn’t care less if I can do 10 or 20 push ups. Because I believe that my body is strong, that I am strong. And no, I don’t have biceps of steel, or a six pack or one of these new “booty’s” that’s all the rage now with fitness. I have wobbly bingo wing arms, I have a comfy layer of fat around my belly served with muffin tops and I have a pancake ass. And I feel f*cking sensational. Just remember – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want too. Does going to the gym make you want to scratch your eyes out? Then don’t do it. Do you have to get on this yoga bandwagon even though you’d rather go lick a power socket?? No – you don’t. Find whatever exercise it is that makes you feel amazing, that you enjoy, that makes you get your groove back on again and don’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks or does. Because when you feel good, irrespective of how your body looks, you’ll naturally feel more confident and courageous.
Tell that nasty woman to take a ticket and move to the left, because you ARE amazing
And no, this is not about Hilary Clinton (but who doesn’t want one of her nasty woman mugs??!! :-) ). This is about the nasty woman in your mind, who likes to swing on past whenever she feels like it to sit down for a cuppa and tell you how worthless, fat, stupid you are. She tells you that you don’t matter. But it’s time to show her that you do matter. We so desperately need to learn how to take better care of ourselves, so this is a big one when starting out. Instead of telling yourself that your fat, that your worthless, that you’ll never amount to anything until you look like “her”, you need to start speaking to yourself the way a mother would to a daughter. That she is strong, that she is capable, that she is more than beautiful. That she was wonderfully made by God to make a mark in this world, to inspire. That she is and will be OK. That everyone makes mistakes and she is loved no matter what. I know that this can be hard. I struggled with this initially, especially because anytime I would try to be more comforting, my subconscious that has only heard negativity for so many years would always come back at me “no your not strong, your weak, your fat, your stupid, you’re an idiot”. And I just had this internal fight. So it wasn’t as simple as simply just jumping out of bed and screaming from the rooftops one day “I love me! I love my body! I’m amazing!” because when I did – I didn’t believe it. Just like you all of a sudden can’t put on a money mindset and say to yourself “I’m gonna earn a million bucks this year” when your in debt and don’t have any clients. It has to feel realistic. You have to comfort yourself with words that you find believable. This is really important so I’ll repeat:
COMFORT YOURSELF WITH WORDS THAT ARE BELIEVABLE!
So what helped me was to say to myself “I know that I don’t feel good in my body, BUT, I’m on my way to loving my body” or “I know that I feel like I’m not good enough, BUT I have many achievements behind me that I should be proud of” or “I know that I feel fat today, BUT, I’m taking the steps to feel healthier in my body, mind and soul”. The reason why this worked is that 1/ I didn’t try to deny what I was feeling 2/ by putting in the “but” this was a pivot point for my subconscious. It negated what I said at the beginning and all my subconscious then heard was “but I’m on my way to being happier and healthier” and 3/ I actually believed what I was saying to myself. Taking this process was a massive difference. As I progressed and progressed I became mentally stronger and happier, so now I can just come straight out and say it “I’m bloody awaesome!” and I believe it! :-)
Ditch the diet!
And it is even more than just ditching the diet, but ditching the diet mindset. This is hard, really hard. For myself, I had years and years of the binge eating/dieting cycle and there were a number of different things that I had to do to overcome all of this. Too much to put into this post. However, one of the major components was to learn how to eat intuitively. To know that there are no good or bad foods. To allow foods without judgement. To get rid of the diet thinking. Now this is much more than just a simple learn how to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full, because sometimes you may be out with friends or family for dinner and you won’t be hungry, but you want to participate. So what do you do? I also see women trying to do the intuitive eating (or hunger/fullness diet that I see as a bit of a spin on it) but they still do it with a diet mindset, which still leaves you crazy around food. But you CAN get rid of the craziness. I never realised how much I ignored my body and it takes a shit load of work to actually start listening to it. But the hardest part of it all for me? Was not learning how to listen, was not taking away the shame and guilt of eating certain foods, but it was letting go of the outcome. What the hell will happen to my body when I would start to listen to what it needs? Will I put on 100kg??!! And you know what happened? I came to my natural set point weight for my genetics and for the stage of life that I am at – the body size that I was always trying to run away from. And now I love it. There is so much to discuss with the ins and outs of intuitive eating, too much for here. But what I do recommend is to read this book and even better, the fab Laura Thomas is running an intuitive eating course that you can join and you can get all of the details here.
Do something for yourself for once!
You’ve spend a lifetime being all things, to all people, at all times. Go get that massage or run that hot bath filled with lavender oil and Epsom salts and soak yourself in it for an evening. Then massage in your favourite moisturiser and put on your sexiest underwear and have a blissful affair with yourself – Because you dam well deserve it!
Remember to give yourself a break. There’s no straight line to the pearly gates of self love.
There will be days where you feel fantastic, where you feel confident, strong, where you’ll walk down the street whistling at yourself saying “that’s right boyz – check me out because I am FLAWLESSS!!” and then you’ll have other days where you’ll be overpowered by the words of the nasty woman, where you’ll feel fat, frumpy and you’ll be sure that your ass is hitting the back of your knees and all you want to do is fall face first into a plate of brownies. You’ll tell yourself that you’re worthless, that you can’t do it, that you’ll never be good enough. But you CAN do it. You ARE worthy and you DO matter. So do not get discouraged. This is where you have to give yourself that extra self care. Make an active effort to be extra nice to yourself on your hard days, extra sweet to yourself on your moody days, extra loving to yourself on your overwhelmed days. And you need to remind yourself, constantly,
YOU’RE DOING THE BEST THAT YOU CAN.
So there you go sweetheart. I know that this overview of what helped me is a lot and you do not have to do everything at once. Take small steps. Start with cleaning up the social media or simply taking some time out for yourself. Because every little step adds up. Every little step makes you feel a little more proud to be who you are. It’s OK to be YOU. Know that you bring something utterly unique to this world. You may sometimes struggle to believe it but you are amazing. Start to value your heart above your hair and your radiance above your rubies. Know that you beauty does not lie in your aesthetics, but in your diversity, in the unique experiences and knowledge that only you can bring to this world. Begin to admire yourself the way that you admire other women – for their courage, their bravery, the way they love living their life filled with happiness and laughter. And know this for sure:
We don’t want you to hide. We want you to be the woman who is seen, full of love and pride for the woman she is.
So go be her!